My name is Dr. Jennifer Williamson and I love Saint Albans. I am running for the Maple Run Unified School District Board in order to support our teachers, administrators, and staff to provide the best educational experience we know our students deserve. As a business owner, physician, and officer of multiple boards most recently for the Eagle Heights Homeowners Association in Saint Albans and the Vermont Association of Naturopathic Physicians, I bring decades of administrative, budgetary, planning, research, and community engagement experience to the table.

 

I am also the parent of a student in the Maple Run Unified School District. My 9-year-old son Victor has been enrolled at SATEC since kindergarten and before that he was in preschool for two years at Barlow Street School. My husband Dave and I look forward to him attending BFA for high school. What you may not know about my family is that Victor is on the autism spectrum. He is a bright and cheerful animal lover and he’s helped me understand that not every kid learns or socializes in the same way. Raising a neuro-atypical child and connecting with other parents of kids with disabilities, I have learned that people who do not understand and embrace the experiences of those on the margins can actually do harm when treating them “like everyone else.” For example, a child with involuntary lip twitching and throat clearing due to Tourette's syndrome might be scolded by someone who thinks the student is being intentionally disruptive. The consequences of misunderstanding and bias can be severe. Per data from the U.S. Department of Education, students with disabilities are arrested by School Resource Officers at three times the rate of their non-disabled peers. Our community has experienced bias firsthand when a Saint Albans Police Department officer used a disability slur while arresting a student at BFA in 2019.

Equity does not trickle down from the haves to the have-nots. When we ensure that those who are most likely to face harm do not suffer from injustices, everyone benefits. I am running for this position because I want to ensure an equitable education in a safe environment for all students. I am invested in lifting the voices and needs of kids in marginalized communities. I stand with members of the community and for kids in marginalized groups like my son, who are statistically more likely to have problems with SROs by advocating for their removal from our schools. Children across Saint Albans from a multitude of backgrounds and experiences have suffered at the hands of the SROs and it is unfair that some of those who have had good experiences are ignoring or minimizing the problems.

A few days ago, the Messenger published “See how the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department plans to curb student ‘sexting.’” With the ongoing conversation in our community about the role of law enforcement officials in schools, I was shocked and dismayed to see that the MRUSD administration is increasing their presence. This is not only a blatant disregard for community concerns, it’s also just another way in which the outgoing superintendent and certain board members are out of touch with educational standards. The CDC Healthy Schools National Health Education Standards has already addressed this issue with an outcome-proven educational approach and thorough curriculum.

On the same day as the above article, the Messenger published “Candidates split on district’s use of SROs” that included statements from various candidates for the MRUSD board. From these statements and subsequent public online posts, it is clear to me that my opponent is ignoring the loud cries of pain from many in the community who want the school board to address the  problems created by the SROs and the problems that SROs are not equipped to address. I hear them. I feel them. I see the injustice and want it corrected.

Your vote for who sits on the board will greatly influence the outcome of this discussion. Once the SRO Committee comes back with their findings, it is up to the MRUSD board to discuss and vote to make a final decision.  I respectfully ask for your vote if you reside in Saint Albans Town, Saint Albans City or Fairfield, although the specific seat I would fill would be for the Town. To learn more about me or to reach out, please visit www.facebook.com/DrJen4MRUSD.

Jennifer Williamson

[Editor’s note: A prior letter from Ms. Williamson had been printed in Friday’s Messenger; it did not include her intended revisions. The above letter does.]

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